Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will attend and participate in the next round of diplomatic talks in Vienna.
The talks, which begin on Friday, are aimed at finding a solution to end the Syrian civil war and coming up with a “multilateral framework for a successful political transition” in the country, which will not include President Bashar al-Assad or his government. Some meetings may also be held on Thursday evening.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby announced an invitation will be extended to Iran to participate in the upcoming talks. An official in the region reportedly told Reuters that Amir-Abdollahian would attend the talks. Reuters confirmed Zarif’s presence later Wednesday. An internal source in close contact with Iranian officials also confirmed with Breitbart News on Wednesday that Zarif will, in fact, be present for the diplomatic discussions.
Washington’s longstanding opposition to having Iran at the table for the Syrian “peace talks” stems from Iran’s “destabilizing activity” in the Syrian conflict, including its support for Assad and their backing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the region; two points of tremendous contention which Kirby referred to as being “unhelpful.” Iran is an ally of al-Assad. Still, Kirby noted that the Iran is “a stakeholder in this process” and their inclusion on the talks in Syria’s future is inevitable.
This will be the first time that Iran will attend a summit of this nature with the United States.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside the Syrian army since early in the conflict and although the crux of direct Iranian military support for Assad has reportedly come in the form of military advisers, Iran has also reportedly mobilized close to 2,000 Shiite militia fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan to assist the Syrian military.
In addition to the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and now Iran, the talks will also include England, France, Germany, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt and Iraq reportedly also accepted invitations to attend the meetings.
The invitation for Iran to attend was reportedly first extended by Russia, another al-Assad ally. Reuters notes that on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held two separate telephone discussions with Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry.
From Vienna, Kerry will reportedly travel to Central Asia for discussions with counterparts from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Kirby issued a statement on behalf of the State Department noting that “This will be Secretary Kerry’s first visit to Central Asia and the first-ever visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to all five Central Asian republics on the same trip.”